For the second time in its 70-year history, the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra (NSPO) will follow the direction of a female conductor when Marshunda Smith guest conducts the Orchestraâ€™s Winter Concert on Sunday, Feb. 25, at Swampscott High School.
Smith, a long-time cellist with the NSPO, will ascend the conductorâ€™s podium as Music Director Robert Lehmann begins a sabbatical for the remainder of this season. As an African-American female, Smithâ€™s appearance is particularly rare in orchestral music.
Smith will conduct a program themed on music inspired by the works of famed English writer William Shakespeare, including Felix Mendelsohnâ€™s â€œIncidental Music from â€˜A Midsummer Nightâ€™s Dreamâ€™â€ and Hector Berliozâ€™ enchanting â€œLove Theme from â€˜Romeo and Juliet.â€ The program also includes Robert Shumannâ€™s â€œJulius Caesar Overtureâ€ and William Waltonâ€™s â€œTwo Pieces from Henry V.â€
Even in todayâ€™s day and age, female conductors are rare in classical music. A 2015 report on Classical-music.com, the official magazine of BBC Music Magazine, commented â€œThe questionÂ â€˜Why arenâ€™t there more women conductors?â€™ remains as relevant in todayâ€™s music industry as it always has been.â€
The article noted recent studies revealed that barely 5 percent of conductors of the worldâ€™s leading orchestraâ€™s were female. While females are slowly becoming prominent on the world stage, it is likely that smaller groups such as the NSPO will be a primary showcase in the immediate future.
â€œWe are especially pleased that Marshunda aspired to this opportunity to conduct,â€ NSPO President Robert Marra Jr. said. â€œMost rewarding is that she is â€˜one of our ownâ€™ as she has been an outstanding and dedicated musician and has assisted Dr. Lehmann for the past several years as she developed her conducting skills. When Mr. Lehmann announced his sabbatical that created two opportunities for a guest conductor this season, we were eager to have Marshunda fill one of those spots.â€
A native of Tennessee, Smith holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She completed her masterâ€™s degree in Orchestral Conducting with an emphasis in music education at the University of Southern Maine, under the Dr. Lehmannâ€™s tutelage.
Tickets to the concert can be purchased at the door, $25 and $20 for seniors and students. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.nspo.org.
The North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra plays three subscription concerts at Swampscott High School. The 2017-2018 season marks the Orchestraâ€™s 70th anniversary. The Orchestra is supported in part by a grant from the Swampscott Cultural Council, a local agency that is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. For more information about the NSPO, visit the Orchestraâ€™s website at www.nspo.org. or on Facebook.